Author: Neil Thin, Neeraj Peter and Prafulla Gorada
Title: Muddles about the Middle: NGOs as Intermediaries in JFM
ISBN: 1 900 795 12 4
This paper concerns Joint Forest Management (JFM), looking at the diversity of roles played by various kinds of NGO involved in JFM in four states It examines this diversity in terms of government policies and expectations, and the NGOsí ideologies and levels of intervention. It is based on research conducted in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh from 1995 to 1997. The research addressed social and ecological dimensions of forest use and management, investigated the historical background as well as contemporary developments, and had focussed particularly on institutional aspects. The paper concludes that future planning of effective partnerships among village organisations, NGOs, Forest Departments, and other interested parties such as other governmental agencies, private business agencies and academics, would benefit from much clearer and contextual definition of why NGOs are to be involved if at all. NGOs and Forest Department staff at various levels will need to improve their ability to understand the comparative advantages and weaknesses of different kinds of agency in different contexts. It will be essential not only to define complementarities in relation to numerous different contexts, but also to recognise that comparative advantage changes very rapidly and therefore needs to be regularly re-appraised. If a Forest Department recognises the comparative advantage of a particular NGO in working with particular villages because of its long history of partnership, it will need a clear strategy either to becoming gradually less dependent on the NGO for access to the villagers or to leave the villages in the hands of the NGO. In either case, the implications of these decisions will need to be carefully thought through.